CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Neighbors in Cheektowaga say empty houses are ruining the value of their neighborhoods and bringing in unwanted guests.
Residents want to know why these properties, seized by banking giants, have been left to crumble. The town board says they have serious issues with the homeowners.
"In normal life, you would call them slumlords," says Town Board Member Charlie Markel.
Those so-called "slumlords" are big banks like Bank of America and Chase. Markel says in too many cases, a homeowner falls behind on a mortgage and the bank begins to foreclose. But then, it stops short. He says the bank continues paying property tax but allows the homes to fall into disrepair, never allowing them back on the market for sale, or to be auctioned.
When asked how long the homes stay like that, he answered, "Some of the places, 10 to 15 years."
Markel has had enough and is asking Bank of America for an explanation. One home on Gary Lane illustrates Markel's point. In the five years since the homeowner was evicted, the town has kept the yard looking nice. And from the outside, it looks like an attractive place to buy. But neighbors say the inside has become overrun by raccoons and skunks. The basement has filled with water.
"It's very frustrating. I've been here 20 years and that house has been like that at least five years. And it's a shame they're letting it sit like that and go to waste," a neighbor across the street from the home said.
It is a nice neighborhood in Cheektowaga, with quality homes and manicured lawns. And residents fear letting homes like these sit empty for years hurts their home value.
"Makes like there's something wrong in the neighborhood," the neighbor feared potential homebuyers might think. "Is there somethign wrong with the water? Or the land? Just makes you wonder why, in a neighborhood like this, why a house like that wouldn't be for sale."
Bank of America e-mailed a statement, which said in full: "Bank of America is committed to maintaining bank-owned properties to neighborhood standards. This property has not completed the foreclosure process and we are working with our vendor to address the property. We will be contacting the city to understand their concerns about this and other properties."
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